Eggplant-Tomato Stacks w/ Vegan Ricotta

eggplant ricotta close up

These eggplant-tomato stacks are inspired by a recipe for eggplant parmesan I found in The Meatless Gourmet, a cookbook published in ’95 by Bonnie Hinman (co-author of the Lean and Luscious book series, as indicated on the cover), a cookbook of my mom’s that for as long as I can remember has sat nestled between New Recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant (1987). That book always fascinated me due to its endorsement by Francis Moore Lappe (author of Diet For a Small Planet) and influenced by Mollie Katzan, founder of Moosewood Restaurant, author of Moosewood Cookbook, and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Despite my infatuation with those books ever since I can remember knowing what “vegetarian” meant, as I grew older and cut out dairy, eggs, etc. I wondered why the moosewood recipes involved so much butter and cream. The book is gorgeous and deliciously vintage in terms of typography and photography; however, I always found it confusing when turing to a page that exhibited a photograph of a very thin, vibrant-looking individual (or group of individuals) riding bikes or picnicking, when the majority of recipes involved such an asinine amount of fattening diary products.




Of course, this version is vegan—and eliminates the carb- and gluten-laden breadcrumbs and the oil typically present in eggplant parmesan or similar dishes.

Eggplant Ricotta Stacks

Ingredients

1 eggplant
1 beefsteak tomato
1 batch vegan ricotta (see below)
prepared marinara sauce, optional
greens for garnish/side, optional

eggplant ricotta stacks
eggplant stacks ricotta

for the vegan ricotta
5oz firm tofu
2 Tbsp cashew butter
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 artichoke hearts (from a can packed in water)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
black pepper

Add 1 Tbsp chia seeds and 2 Tbsp water to a blender or food processor. Let sit for 2 minutes until it forms a gel.

Add the cashew butter, artichokes, lime juice, and 2 Tbsp water/brine from the artichokes. Add more water/brine if additional liquid is needed for the ingredients to blend. The result should be mostly smooth, enough to pulverize the chia seeds and artichoke hearts—with a texture that resembles a thick sauce. Set aside. Mash/crumble the tofu with a fork or your hands, to achieve a texture similar to ricotta cheese. Add the cashew-artichoke mixture gradually, and stir to combine. Cover, and set aside.




Slice eggplant cross-wise to create circular pieces of 1cm thickness. Spread pieces on a lightly oiled broiler pan or cookie sheet large enough to avoid overlap (a little overlap is ok, and probably unavoidable depending on the size of your eggplant). Broil on low for 6-7 minutes on each side, until lightly browned, turning once. As the eggplant browns, slice the tomato in “standard” cuts i.e. like the type you would find at a sandwich bar or the kind served on hamburgers.

Remove eggplant from oven. When cool enough to touch, proceed to make the stacks.

Create stacks in layers with a piece of eggplant as the base, spread the vegan ricotta, then add a tomato slice; top with another slice of eggplant, then another layer of vegan ricotta, topped with another slice of tomato. In other words: eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato, ricotta, eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato.

3 eggplant ricotta stacks

When finished, broil stacks on low for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes the tomatoes don’t appear fully cooked, return to the oven for another minute or two, checking to make sure they don’t burn.

Enjoy with a side of greens i.e. baby kale (pictured) and marinara sauce for dipping i.e. the Engine 2 oil-free, no-sugar-added tomato-basil marinara sold exclusively at Whole Foods and is suddenly all the rage and I purchased in order to review it (in an upcoming post)

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Nachos, reinvented.

vegan eggplant nachos

Before I went vegan, I recall ordering nachos once or twice a year at a gas-station-turned Mexican restaurant called Cotija in my hometown which no longer exists. That place had the best chips and salsa known to man, and seeing it close down definitely tore at my heart with an intensity I rarely feel for anything greasy or devoid of nutrients. I once tried to eat a vegan donut from Voodoo Donut on a dare, but after three bites I felt pain in the roots of my teeth from all the sugar—and to be honest, I didn’t like it. I don’t know if it stems from my early attempts to cut out any and all unhealthy foods that I didn’t truly enjoy, thereby justifying little more than dark chocolate or the “Our Daily Red” (I think it was called) sulfite-free wine that I knew didn’t exactly improve my health but nonetheless seemed less harmful and more vegan than Sutter Home.

The predominant image that springs to mind when I think of nachos hails from 2004, on a band trip to Disneyland. Or was it the Washington, D.C. trip with band? Or the D.C. trip in junior high? I can’t recall. It couldn’t have been the band trip to Spain my senior year, considering I’d transitioned to vegan in 2005. Considering how many years and repressed memories have gone by since, I don’t blame myself for melding all of them together. However, one of the aforementioned unplaceable experiences involved nachos. With olives, guac, pico, black beans, jalapeño, and of course cheese. I think (unless I dreamt this) that I convinced the group in which I shared said plate of nachos to leave off the sour cream (since I could never stand it and thinking of it now almost triggers a gag reflux).




I’ve not always liked vegan “sour cream” either, but certain attempts (for example the one served at Vita Cafe in Portland) thankfully bear little resemblance to the real thing and I must admit I really did like…

…hence the non sour cream-esque flavor of the “crema” used in the recipe that follows.

Cheers to reminiscing about band trips, with a recipe for healthy, nutritionally sound nachos:

Nachos w/ Eggplant Chips, Pea Guac, Crema + Pico

Ingredients

1 eggplant

for the pico de gallo
5 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin powder
3 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 or 1/2 lime, juiced (size can vary, so adjust accordingly)

Make the pico first, before proceeding to the chips, the crema, or the guac. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, a jar, or other container; cover, and refrigerate.

for the cauliflower-sesame crema
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup raw hulled sesame seeds, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup water
ground pepper to taste




for the green pea guac
1 lb frozen green peas
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup cilantro
1-2 limes, juiced (size can vary, so adjust accordingly)
3/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, or more to taste

Method

Slice eggplant into rounds of 1/2 cm thickness. Cut each slice into a triangular shape (to mimic the appearance of tortilla chips). Cover a large plate with a paper towel. Spread eggplant triangles in 1 layer and cover with another paper towel. Press down on the eggplant to allow the paper towels to absorb some of the water, enabling the eggplant to cook more efficiently. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 and prepare the cauliflower-sesame cream: In a blender or food processor, combine the 2 cups cauliflower, 1/2 cup soaked sesame seeds, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons lime juice, salt, water and pepper (optional). Transfer to a serving dish or container. Rinse blender or food processor to prep for the guacamole.

Transfer eggplant to a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, checking and/or rotating often. Add 1/2 cup frozen peas to an oven pan, disperse evenly, and bake for 5 minutes (while the eggplant chips continue to cook). Remove peas from oven (they should be hot but not charred) and immediately transfer to the ice bath. Strain, and transfer to the blender or food processor. Continue to check the eggplant (cook time should not exceed 30 minutes). To the blender, add all ingredients to the blender or food processor as listed above for the green pea guac. Blend until it reaches a guacamole-like consistency.

Once the chips de


velop a crisp texture, remove from oven and serve topped with the cauliflower-sesame crema, green pea guacamole, and pico de gallo.

vegan eggplant nachos (2)

vegan paleo nachos

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